Jackson Browne

Rock Me on the Water

Composed by Jackson Browne

Song Review by

In the songs he was writing shortly before his recording debut in 1972, Jackson Browne continually alluded to apocalyptic events, but never more explicitly than in "Rock Me on the Water," a song he was performing as early as the fall of 1970. The song, led by a prominent piano part, is written in a gospel style that could easily be heard in any Southern Baptist church in the country, and the lyrics take off from the gospel style as well. The singer begins with an exhortation to "people" who have let other people care and who are "lost inside your houses." Now, it is too late: Their walls are burning, their towers turning, and there is no time to find them. The singer has to reach the water. On the road, he encounters homeless souls who, unlike the ones in the houses, are willing to help others. Meanwhile, the fires are getting hotter, but the singer is confident that "the sisters of the sun are gonna rock me on the water." The final verse is overtly religious, containing references to Jesus, the Father, and the gospel plow, and the song builds to an ecstatic finale. Even before Jackson Browne got around to recording "Rock Me on the Water," it had interested other performers. Johnny Rivers introduced it on his Home Grown album, released in the summer of 1971, and Brewer and Shipley put it on their Shake Off the Demon LP, issued that fall. It appeared on Linda Ronstadt's self-titled album, released at the end of the year, and Ronstadt put it out as a single that made the lower reaches of the charts. But it was Browne's own version, released as the penultimate track on his debut album in January 1972, that got the greatest attention. Issued as the follow-up single to "Doctor My Eyes," it peaked halfway up the Top 100 singles charts in September. Since then, it has been associated with Browne primarily, though jazz singer Diane Schuur put it on her Deedles album in 1984. In 1994, country singer Kathy Mattea, with Browne singing along, cut a version of it for the benefit album Red Hot + Country.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Jackson Browne 1972 Warner Bros.
No Image 1983 Asylum
The Very Best of Jackson Browne 2004 Elektra / RHE / Rhino 4:15
Four Decades of Folk Rock 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:12
Where the Shadows Fall: The Classic 1972 Broadcast 2013 All Access
I'll Do Anything: Live in Concert 2013 Inside Recordings
Together Again: Live Syracuse, 1971 2016 Roxvox 5:00
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